Ulster Bank is expected to put its remaining branches up for sale before the end of the year as it continues to wind down its operations here. The bank, which is due to close the final 63 locations it still has open on Friday, owns 31 of those buildings outright. It rents the remainder.
The bank has also begun to lay the ground for plans to repatriate €4.24 billion of capital tied up in the Irish business to its UK parent NatWest Group, according to recent filings with the Companies Registration Office (CRO).
The lender will spend the next several months clearing out the buildings and preparing them for sale, before putting 41 branches it owns or on which it holds a long lease on the open market on a phased basis, according to sources familiar with the bank’s plans. Most of the branches will be up for sale before the end of the year, they added.
The departing bank’s College Green building in Dublin is seen as the stand-out property of its remaining portfolio given its location. That building will almost certainly be offered for sale in a stand-alone deal.
Other branches are likely to be sold individually or in small portfolios given the perceived difficulty in securing a prospective buyer for properties dispersed across the State.
An Ulster Bank spokeswoman declined to comment.
The bank is also seeking to negotiate an exit from leases on the 32 branches it rents, in many of which it has been a tenant for decades. Those negotiations may be complicated by landlords’ difficulty in securing a replacement tenant on similar terms to the bank. Given the age of many of the bank branch buildings they may need significant investment to bring them up to modern standards.
“Many bank buildings are older and are often protected structures. That can limit what they can be used for,” said one property agent who has handled bank branch sales in the past.
The closure of its remaining branches takes Ulster Bank a step closer to completing its exit from the Republic. While it will continue to operate here for some time that work will be focused almost entirely on winding down its business now that it has effectively ended its public-facing business.
A spokeswoman declined to comment on when the bank will start making transfers to its parent, adding that “any capital repatriation remains subject to regulatory approval”.